When high-functioning autistic teen Kennedi Simone High failed to return home after attending class at Western High School, her mother became worried. It wasn’t like the 16-year-old to wander off, so there was an immediate concern as to Kennedi’s whereabouts.
Brandi Stallings, Kennedi’s mother, made public pleas through the media hoping that her daughter would be found safe and sound. The Baltimore teen struggles with assessing potential dangerous people or situations she may encounter. Because of this, her mother didn’t allow her to have a cell phone. She even made sure that the computer Kennedi used in the home was put in the living room so she could monitor what the teen was doing online.
Kennedi was reported missing and it didn’t take long for police to find out that the teenager was using a dating app from a friends phone to talk to men online. For five days friends and family feared the worst but held out hope that Kennedi would be returned home safely.
Their prayers were answered.
Police located the girl in the company of a man she met through the app. She left her school voluntarily to meet him and was found alone in an apartment complex.
“I was devastated. I didn’t know about these accounts. I had confiscated the electronics,” Brandi said. “Parents have to be conscious because kids will be very savvy in getting access to electronics.”
“It appears she went voluntarily with someone, but might not have known the magnitude or scope of what she might have been getting herself into,” Baltimore Police spokesman T.J. Smith said. “It appears she might have met some people on a dating app which led to her voluntarily going somewhere.”
Investigators believe that Kennedi was lured away by an online predator, but they initially needed to give her space. According to her mother, Kennedi was shaken up by the ordeal and required time to process what happened to her.
Officers used this case to alert parents, once again, of the dangers of apps and online interactions with strangers. Brandi Stallings took all the proper precautions necessary to keep her daughter safe and still Kennedi found a way to contact random men.
“The bottom line to keeping kids safe online is communications. Discuss what he or she is doing online and why. Also, check the browser history to know where your child goes when online and check those sites regularly,” said Natalie Wilson, co-founder and chief operating officer of the Black and Missing Foundation.